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THE FRIENDS OF THORNBOROUGH HENGES

Protecting, Preserving and Enhancing Our Cultural Landscape

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release, 10 December 2007

Shambles at Thornborough Henges

Exactly two years ago, the Friends of Thornborough Henges pointed out that, in North Yorkshire County Council, officers were making decisions contrary to those publicly stated by elected representatives [see attached News Release 14] and it is still happening! Officers denied local residents consultation in relation to the Section 106 Agreement that accompanies the County Council's 16/1/07 approval of Tarmac’s revised Ladybridge Farm quarrying application.

The latter was subject to the inclusion by the committee of two additional conditions recommended by the Environment Agency. These were intended to protect the henges from potential collapse due to subsurface gypsum dissolution induced by Tarmac’s planned alterations to the water table. However, the Amended Decision Notice issued on 23 October omitted these two conditions, which would prove costly for the mining company to implement. Three requests by the Friends in the past month for an explanation, via Heritage Champion Councillor Heather Garnett, remain unanswered. Surely officers were not authorised to issue the planning permission without the two conditions added by the committee?

In January, our legal advisers warned the P&R Committee members that they were being wrongly advised by their officers who insisted that, at 32% and 1.1 million tonnes, the successful Ladybridge application represented only a small-scale extension to Nosterfield Quarry. This was despite the fact that, in May 2002, the authority had turned down the 35% (0.85 million tonnes) proposed extension of the Ripon City Quarry on receipt of legal advice that it could not be lawfully regarded as small scale.

More recently, NYCC has discounted Hanson’s request to include sites for two small quarries in the revised Minerals Local Plan. The first, at Belflasks to the east of West Tanfield, is deemed to be too close to Thornborough Henges ~ although it is not significantly closer than Ladybridge Farm. The likelihood of ‘high adverse cumulative landscape or visual effects in conjunction with Nosterfield Quarry extensions’ is cited for rejecting Upsland, immediately to the east of Ladybridge Farm. Yet surely anyone looking east from Well bank would find it impossible to credit that the approved Ladybridge extension will not have similar adverse effects?

In its latest consultation on the same plan, NYCC state that the setting of the henges is a consideration for Tarmac’s proposed extensions northwest and northeast of Nosterfield Quarry, but don’t mention setting for the Ladybridge extension, which is nearer to the henges, and refused to consider it at the decisive meeting last January. John Lowry, Chairman of the Friends, commented, “In the light of such cavalier and inconsistent decision-making, how can the North Yorkshire electorate have any confidence in a county council that, only recently, was seeking its support to become a unitary authority?”

In the absence of appropriate legislation or compulsory purchase, the development of a voluntary Conservation Plan has been promoted by NYCC as the main hope for preserving the surviving prehistoric landscape around the unique Thornborough Henges. But the cynical observer will be unsurprised to learn that, after 4 years’ work, opposition from landowners and mining interests has resulted in the shelving, after public consultation, of the conservation proposals produced by internationally renowned consultants Atkins Global.

In addition, it was announced at the last meeting of the Thornborough Henges Advisory Group that the principal landowners are refusing public access to the scheduled monuments themselves ~ thereby reversing the promise made by Tarmac in its Ladybridge application. So the situation is now even worse than it was in 2003 ~ making it difficult to escape the conclusion that this longwinded and fruitless exercise was really designed as a mechanism to subdue criticism of NYCC’s pro-quarrying agenda, as expressed in the Swale & Ure Washlands Project.

END

 

Note for Editors:

The minutes of the Thornborough Henges Steering Group and its Advisory Group are published under ‘Thornborough’ on the NYCC website, www.northyorks.gov.uk ~ although the minutes of the 22 November meeting are not yet shown.

The non-productive email correspondence with NYCC regarding the missing conditions is set out below in reverse date order, while News Release 14, the P&R Committee Minutes and the Amended Decision Notice are attached.

5.12.07:
Dear Heather,
I hardly know how to put this ~ but if a councillor can't get a response from officers in a reasonable time, what hope is there for members of the public?
Mike Sanders

23.11.07
Do please call me by my first name, it would make me feel much more comfortable! I have been in contact with the head of Planning over this, who apologised for not replying sooner and said she would let me have a response very soon. So I will jog her again.
Regards
Heather

23.11.07
Dear Councillor Garnett,
I don't feel I can address you by your first name when we've met only once!

My colleagues in the Friends are getting restive on this issue, particularly with the Advisory Group being effectively terminated yesterday. Please chase your officers for a reply to my query below. The omission was either deliberate or an oversight, in which case it needs rectifying PDQ.
Yours sincerely,
Mike Sanders

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 6:06 PM Subject: Re: Ladybridge Farm & Thornborough Henges
I will make inquires and get back to you Heather

11.11.07
Dear Councillor Garnett,
The Decision Notice on the Planning & RF Committee's 16/1/07 approval of Tarmac's amended Ladybridge Farm quarrying application was issued on 23 October. The Committee's approval was subject to the inclusion of two additional conditions (see attachment), as recommended by the Environment Agency, designed to protect the henges from collapse due to gypsum dissolution induced by the planned alterations to the water table.

I am alarmed to find that the decision notice fails to include these two conditions. As our Heritage Champion, can you please explain this omission.
Yours sincerely,
Mike Sanders

For further information on this press release,
contact Dick Lonsdale on


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